First North American ‘Feathered’ Dinosaur?

Out of the drawers at the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology were stored specimens that were discovered in upper Cretaceous, which is when true birds  were already flying around the earth when they lived.  Impressions of mostly straight lines was interpreted to be that of “feathers” on a dinosaur!

Artwork began to emerge in the media as it just loves to hype up these kinds of things, the specimen was touted as the very first North American “feathered” dinosaur! Where was the critique or alternative analysis in these publications that were claiming that those mostly straight line impressions were not only feathers but claiming the dinosaur was using those alleged feathers as a courtship display like the BBCscience daily, phys.org, and even live science?

In Zelenitsky’s paper, where all this hype is coming from, words like vane, and pennaceous are noticeably missing throughout the paper! One does find the word barbule being mentioned.  Further, these supposed “feathers” are not connected to the skeleton, rather the impression in the rock is separated by a centimeter or more at various angles from parallel to almost perpendicular.

They give it a name, Ornithomimus  which means  “ostrich-mimic” dinosaur which they claim has a filament or shaft, much simpler than the complex vanes of true feathers with their barbs, barbules and interlocking hooks.  This species is different from other claims of ‘feathered’ dinosaurs, because those others were lizard-hipped dinosaurs and this one is, bird-hipped.

This adds to the complexity of the evolution of birds from dinosaurs because it would claim that dinosaurs had feathers long before flight. They admit, their new discovery (interpretation) is too heavy to fly. So they suggested it was some sort of courtship dance.

It is interesting to note, that the adult had the scratch like impressions (labeled as feathers) but one juvenile did not have it.  The third had markings on the bone itself.  The paper stretches  hard data for imagination  by claiming that criss-cross markings on the bone are inferred traces left by shafted feathers without bearing any resemblance to actual feathers! Yet we see their artwork showing the adult with fully-fledged wing feathers, barbs, barbules and all, and even multiple colors! Talk about using the imagination with so little data. Whatever the markings mean, they complicate the story of dinosaur-to-bird evolution.

Part of the reason of all this hype over little markings on a bone and mostly straight line impressions in the rock, is because they use dinosaurs to try and spark interest in evolution ( they know that kids love dinosaurs) and do not like the fact that dinosaurs fit well in the biblical creationism. So was there a first North American “feathered” dinosaur that was discovered in storage at a museum? The answer of course is no, there is not enough evidence to suggest  that the animal had a courtship dance with all its colors of its feathers!

Blind Cave Fish Across The World

Did similar-looking blind cave fish swim across the world or did they evolve separately or was it something else? Two hypotheticals that deal with “what if” were being presented to the public as explanations.

In the BBC, they report…

“A study in PLoS One showed Madagascan and Australian cave fish inherited their blindness from a common ancestor. Their forebears probably lived in caves on the prehistoric southern super-continent Gondwanaland. Then continental drift tore this family apart – transporting them to their current locations.”

Did the study really show that they fish inherited their blindness from a common ancestor? If it did, then what is this…

“One possibility was that the cave fishes had evolved independently, from terrestrial counterparts. Species adapt to environmental challenges and opportunities and – through a process of natural selection – only the fittest survive (click here). When separate species are exposed to the same selective pressures they often come up with the same solutions – a process known as convergent evolution.”

The previous post discussed “only the fittest survive” with another study on how a creature went unchanged for a supposed 500 million years in the evolutionary time frame and survived while a much more fancy creature with better traits went extinct. But the question remains, if the study “showed” inheritance through a common ancestor to explain why blind cave fish have similar characteristics but are 4000 miles apart then why are they including other speculation? Maybe it was shown after all!

Convergent evolution was also considered, “When separate species are exposed to the same selective pressures they often come up with the same solutions — a process known as convergent evolution.”

Here is what the researchers came up with in their explanation. They believe  two lands split 60 million years ago, leaving the two species of cave-dwellers 4,000 miles apart, no longer able to share a common gene pool.  But where is the evidence of two lands splitting 60 million years ago to separate the species?   Two lands splitting is a major phenomena, one of which cannot rest its evidence on two types of blind cave fish that are 4,000 miles apart!

Their explanation defies logic, first of all, blindness is degeneration (a loss of a trait) rather than evolution (new information gained).  In the creationist model, variations within a species is acceptable and observable without adding new genetic information that evolution requires in this case.

Unlike the BBC press release, the authors admitted in their study that evolutionary theory is not confident in the seat of scientific explanation here:

“A major issue plaguing our understanding regarding the evolution of cave animals has been a lack of basic information regarding the assembly of these biotas, including mechanisms of speciation and phylogenetic origin.” 

Just basic information regarding assembly along with mechanisms of speciation and phylogenetic origin is not understood in the story of evolution, then why are you trying to explain it then? Another thing that is illogical about their story, it doesn’t take 60 million years to go blind. A generation or two could do that! 60 million years is more time than the major transitions they claimed to have happened with mammals!

Also why would these blind cave fish go unchanged and remain in the same location for 60 million years being on opposite sides of the ocean looking more similar between each other than other gobies? Does that register as logic to you? The best explanation comes from the Biblical account where a global flood happened which is where creationists believe the flood had broke up the continents and spread them apart rapidly. Only pockets of fish populations would have survived which is why they were discovered where they are now rather than in places like India!

Mercury Mission Is Jaw Dropping

The innermost and smallest planet in the Solar System which orbits the sun slightly under 88 days has been the focus of many articles for Messenger’s amazing data collecting mission. Finding things that no theorist would have ever predicted. In fact, last March the mission revealed some eye-popping data that has sent many of them back to the drawing board. Mercury is different from what has been described in the textbooks.

In last week’s journal of science, strange hollows were discovered on Mercury. Could this be something like on Mars which has similar features? It has been speculated that Mars features were a consequence of evaporating carbon dioxide ice. But there is no carbon dioxide ice on Mercury, so what is it? Evidence of volcanism! The strange hollows have been observed with three flybys, and the extent of them exceeded expectations, described by the BBC as having enough lava to cover Washington DC by 26,000 km.

Space.com says…

“Based on the way this lava apparently eroded the underlying surface, the researchers suggest it rushed out rapidly. We can’t say if it took 2.7 days or 15 years or any exact time from orbit, but it wasn’t hundreds of millions of years,” Head added.

Mercury’s northern high latitudes had largely escaped view until now. When we flew by Mercury the first time with Mariner 10, we weren’t really sure if volcanism caused these smooth plains,” Head told SPACE.com. Now we’re in orbit with Messenger, we’re up close and personal, just going around and around and really building up our picture of Mercury.”

What is strange about this observation when it comes to the old age framework, why would very massive volcanism turn on like that, last a few short years, and then stop and then remain unchanged for billions of years?

One of the reasons there is a Mercury mission is trying to solve, it’s magnetic field mystery. Back in the 1970s, scientists were surprised to find that Mercury had one because with the “dynamo theory” it should have frozen out long ago. It suggested that Mercury was younger than billions of years. Mercury’s magnetic field is unable to provide protection from the solar wind.

Science daily writes…

“Only six months into its Mercury orbit, the tiny MESSENGER spacecraft has shown scientists that Mercury doesn’t conform to theory. Its surface material composition differs in important ways from both those of the other terrestrial planets and expectations prior to the MESSENGER mission, calling into question current theories for Mercury’s formation. Its magnetic field is unlike any other in the Solar System, and there are huge expanses of volcanic plains surrounding the north polar region of the planet and cover more than 6% of Mercury’s surface…. Theorists need to go back to the drawing board on Mercury’s formation,” remarked the lead author of one of the papers, Carnegie’s Larry Nittler. “Most previous ideas about Mercury’s chemistry are inconsistent with what we have actually measured on the planet’s surface.”

While some claim planetary scientists enjoy surprises for job security reasons, and designing a spacecraft to be able to gather data is quite a feat, the old-age framework has been one of the reasons why observations are not matching up with theories. Increasing complexity for a theory is never good, it often leads to telling a story and passing it off as better than empirical data. Suggesting bursts of massive lava all over the north, then shut off for billions of years, while things are being hollowed out in a process that could still be ongoing today, is forcing the data into the framework.

While suggesting that a planet is smaller than Titan is able to keep an iron core liquid long enough so that a global magnetic field can survive.  As a result of this complexity, they have to create a planet with elements that were believed not possible to exist so close to the sun, but then keep vast deposits of it intact after billions of years of solar heat and bombardment. Their story telling is not nearly as good as the data itself. The Mercury is a great mission so far and it’s making clearer rather than more complex that it is younger (thousands of years) and designed by a Creator, namely God!

Being Blessed With These Gifts

Not only there are amazing things within the design of animals but humans have incredible gifts. Some interesting research on Amazon tribes people been published. They were known in the early 1770s for raiding Portuguese settlements along the Amazon. In response, the governor of Pará sent a military expedition which used guns, as a result, the military soundly defeated the Mundurucu, who fought only with bows and arrows. The Mundurucu learned to tap and cure rubber latex and became part of the patronage system that controlled the rubber trade.

But there is one amazing thing discovered with these tribesmen in the amazon. The Mundurucu have an understanding of Euclidean geometry, without ever learning it at school! In the BBC Jason Palmer reported…

“Tests given to an Amazonian tribe called the Mundurucu suggest that our intuitions about geometry are innate. Researchers examined how the Mundurucu think about lines, points and angles, comparing the results with equivalent tests on French and US schoolchildren. The Mundurucu showed comparable understanding, and even outperformed the students on tasks that asked about forms on spherical surfaces.”

“The Mundurucu people’s responses to the questions were roughly as accurate as those of the French and US respondents; they seemed to have an intuition about lines and geometric shapes without formal education or even the relevant words.”

This is the year for people whom I know are having babies, so it seems even more fitting that I cover this topic! One of the things that is turning up about them in research is that babies are showing more cleverness than previous thought. Live Science has a whole list of them…

“As early as 10 months of age, babies figure out that might makes right. When shown scenes of big and small cartoon blocks interacting, infants stare longer (indicating more surprise) when the big one yields the right-of-way to the small one than they do when the small one is subservient. The finding, published in January 2011 in the journal Science, suggest that babies understand social hierarchies and know that size can determine who’s in charge. The results suggest that the blueprints of social interaction are built into the human brain.”

“Even before they can say more than “mama” and “dada,” babies can decipher emotions … of dogs…While your infant still might not speak, he or she likely knows when you’re feeling down. As young as 5 months of age, babies can accurately pick out an upbeat tune from a gloomy one, according to a study published in 2010 in the journal Neuron.”

“Babies can apparently learn even while asleep, according to a 2010 study. In experiments with 26 sleeping infants, each just 1 to 2 days old, scientists played a musical tone followed by a puff of air to their eyes 200 times over the course of a half-hour. A network of 124 electrodes stuck on the scalp and face of each baby also recorded brain activity during the experiments. The babies rapidly learned to anticipate a puff of air upon hearing the tone, showing a fourfold increase on average in the chances of tightening their eyelids in response to the sound by the end of each session.”

“In a 2007 study published in the journal Science, researchers had 36 infants watch silent videos of three bilingual French-English speakers reciting sentences. After being trained to become comfortable with a speaker reciting a sentence in one language, babies ages 4 months and 6 months spent more time looking at a speaker reciting a sentence in a different language —demonstrating that they could tell the difference between the two.”

A study in Science called, “Pure Reasoning in 12-Month-Old Infants as Probabilistic Inference”, the abstract says…“Many organisms can predict future events from the statistics of past experience, but humans also excel at making predictions by pure reasoning: integrating multiple sources of information, guided by abstract knowledge, to form rational expectations about novel situations, never directly experienced. 

“Here, we show that this reasoning is surprisingly rich, powerful, and coherent even in preverbal infants.  When 12-month-old infants view complex displays of multiple moving objects, they form time-varying expectations about future events that are a systematic and rational function of several stimulus variables.

Some animals are great swimmers, but humans design boats, engines, and submarines. Birds of prey are great at flying but humans design jets, rockets, and satellites. Certain animals can make gestures, some birds can talk, but humans are able to reason. Humans are blessed with gifts that are far beyond what animals have and they too are amazing themselves!